It is a fact that 99% of all pre-workout supplements out there are designed for bodybuilders—that’s as it should be, since their ingredients are intended to increase your pump. And they’re called pre-workout supplements, not pre-competition supplements, which is also as it should be, since pre-workout supps are designed to deliver an hour or two of energy and focus, just enough to help you reach your goals in a single workout. But that’s not enough for a competition day. Powerlifting meets, depending on the size, are either like three separate workouts or one looooong five- to seven-hour workout. Strongman comps and Highland games are like heptathlons. Armwrestlers, track and field throwers, and even our CrossFit brethren are familiar with the peaks and valleys of energy supps that can make or break a day. So what do you do to get ready for competition days?
How many of you in the blogosphere have fried your nervous systems taking three or four or more doses of pre-workout supps on a competition day? I’ve been there. My experience is that the third dose barely does more than enhance the new facial tick it provided after lunch, I’m cramped up like a stowaway, my piss looks like I was exposed to radiation somehow, and I am all of a sudden sympathizing with the dude on the side of the underpass that had “PLEASE HELP” written on the back of a Little Caesar’s box. YES, I WANT EXTRA RANCH!!! My point is that pre-comp supplementation is precarious business.
Here are the go-to products that work for me on competition day:
- Redline: Tinker with the dose without going over what’s recommended and only use on competition day. You do not want to find yourself asking, “WTF did I just drink?” as you start puking like an Amish girl on Rumspringa and sweating through your singlet, even though it’s snowing! That bottle you just chugged was actually four doses, and the manufacturers recommend that you cautiously start with a quarter of the bottle. No, you shouldn’t be able to see through your hands.
- Cordyceps Sinensis: This stuff works, but don’t read what it is if you’re easily grossed out. It’s not a stim, per se, but it does help with focus. I find that Redline works better and longer at lower doses when combined with Cordyceps Sinensis.
And this, my friends, is where some would say the line is drawn. Redline and Cordyceps are as far as I’ve ever gone, and I’ve been able to do what most would consider some pretty impressive stuff. Proceed past this point only if you acknowledge that I am not suggesting or advising anything here. This is simply feedback based on the experiences of your fellow athletes. If you follow anything I say at any time without vetting it for yourself, then you’re accepting responsibility for your own actions and well-being. Don’t be stupid. Care for yourself and always be cautious. You are the only you that you have. There are a few more strategies that I’m familiar with; they might enhance your performance, but beware that they come with increased risk, both legally and bodily:
- Adderall: It’s super-common in ALL sports from strongman to ping pong, track and field to poker. SUPER-COMMON. You need a prescription to walk with it legally, but just about everyone knows someone with ADD who’s already carrying a prescription. Adderall is an amphetamine. It is addictive, and it is LONG-lasting. Take too much too late in the day and Saturday becomes Monday, and good luck getting that Blu-ray player back together. And yes, they are totally watching you! Despite the psychological risks, Adderall can improve your competition performance. And, if taken responsibly, it can significantly decrease the overall amount of crap needed for a great competition—one pill as opposed to multiple scoops of stuff that has only recently been distributed for human consumption. Adderall is banned from every type of competition that does any legit drug testing.
- Provigil: There are all sorts of gray areas with this stuff, but it definitely works. Provigil decreases reaction time, increases alertness and focus, and lasts for the better part of a day. If it wears off mid-comp, though, good luck re-firing the rockets. It’s hard to find and even harder to get a prescription for it. You’ll probably have to order it online, so it’s up to you to decide whether or not you trust the overseas sources. It’s been very popular with martial artists and sprinters for awhile, and it’s now starting to appear in other areas of sport. I guess it’s the proud sponsor of the WSOP and chess tournaments as well. Nobody knows its exact mechanism of action or its long-term side effects. Let me repeat that—NOBODY KNOWS HOW IT WORKS. Also, it’s important to note that it may or may not be banned, depending on your governing body.
I’d also like to take a moment to address the slew of independent pre-workout supps. Please be cautious when trying anything new. Making small chemical tweaks to an illegal product in order to make it legal means that it’s a whole new product. New means untested, and untested means that we know not what it does. Anytime someone is making something with the intention of staying ahead of a legal curve, especially on a chemical level, you are in dangerous territory. Take, for example, Lyle Alzado, who stormed the beach for growth hormone, before it was synthesized. The stuff he was using came from the glands of cadavers. How weird that people started growing tumors from it! This is not an arena where I see any heroism in being a pioneer. If, however, you are one of the explorers, I would love to hear about your experiences.
If you cannot Google the ingredients in a supplement, if the servings and dosages do not line up, or if you see bush-league shit like misspelled words and crooked labels, you may want to reconsider using it. This stuff is often made in buckets in somebody’s garage from bulk ingredients ordered from who the hell knows where. It’s the process that led to the birth of bath salts. So, just because it comes in a forbidden-looking container and has a name like “Corrosive Napalm Fury Detonator” does not mean it’s the next Ultimate Orange. Ultimate Orange could power a full day of competing and was simply from heaven, back in the day when people were allowed to take responsibility for their own actions. Now the government has castrated the public and limited our choices, all because a warning label wasn’t enough to protect some idiots from themselves. The people who blindly accept advice without testing it against their own judgment and common sense are everything that is wrong with the world. I am currently in the process of developing my own product, and you’d better believe that it will be supported by lab tests and a full disclosure of ingredients.
Figuring out what works for you is going to take some experimentation. Every athlete is different. I associate with a couple athletes who are the absolute best in their sports and who will say things like, “Whoa, I shouldn’t drink a second cup of coffee or I’ll get jittery.” But, in my head, I’m sobbing with my feet braced against the wall of the bathroom stall, as the punishment for my sins escapes my backside with furious velocity due to the 12 cups of triple shot I almost painted my backspotter with. If you’re one of the blessed few who gets a significant and prolonged increase in performance from a cup of joe, then let me give you a thumbs up. (Oh, sorry, wrong finger!) Good for you! The rest of us, with higher tolerances and maybe even higher needs for stimulus, don’t have it so easy. You’ll need to modify and experiment until you come up with a plan that works for you. This process will depend on your sensitivity to various products, your personal strategy, and the type of competing you do. Research and experiment on your own because nobody knows you better than you.
On a final note, one side effect of high-dose stimulant consumption is cramping. A combination of Karbolyn, Pedialyte, and kosher sea salt is a simple fix. Try a full scoop of Karbolyn the evening before the competition. Half of a Pedialyte on the morning of the competition will be a great start to the day. Then, add a teaspoon of kosher sea salt to every liter of bottled water you drink throughout the day; unless you’re competing in the heat, keep the water temperature as ambient as possible. Continue sipping Pedialyte all day long, and also add an appropriate dose of Karbolyn to your energy supplements prior to events.
Leave any comment, question, or suggestion here on the blog or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to continue this discussion or pursue my online coaching. I would love to hear from you.
“Every man must do two things alone; he must do his own believing and his own dying.”—Martin Luther